The Boy Who Drew Birds: A story of John James Audubon
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Ages 5 to 8
Houghton Mifflin, 2004, 0-618-24343-7
Though John James was good at many things and though he had many talents and skills, there was one thing that he liked to do more than anything else: he loved to watch birds. Together he and his father used to walk in the woods near their home in France and talk about the birds, their appearance, and their behavior.
This fascination with birds did not wane as he grew up. John James’ father sent his son to America so that the young man would not have to fight in Napoleon’s army and soon John James was tramping through the Pennsylvanian countryside watching birds and asking himself questions about their lives. Back at the farm where he lived he would draw pictures of the birds he had seen and collect treasures that he found on his walks: nests, eggs, pieces of bark, dried flowers and much more.
Through careful observation and by banding a young bird – something no one had really done before for scientific purposes – John James was able to determine that birds return to their old home each spring. His career as an ornithologist had begun.
Jacqueline Davies has created a wonderful biography which will capture the interest of young readers and perhaps encourage them to try to find out more about the Frenchman who created some of the most beautiful paintings of birds ever created. The author used, among others, Audubon’s own book as a source for her account.
Melissa Sweet has created wonderful artwork for this biography by combining watercolor paintings with collage and objects from nature. The overall effect is that one feels that one is looking at a naturalist’s journal complete with feathers, bird’s eggs, and nests.
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